I Like

Recommended: The Palace Job

by Michael Alderete on 11/18/2013 · 0 comments

The Palace Job is, by far, the best audiobook I’ve listened to in at least a year. Think Leverage meets Firefly meets The Wizard of Oz. (If you know Steven Brust’s Dragaera, it’s a better fit than Oz.) The book is fun, funny, and thrilling from start to finish.

The Palace Job

First, the novel itself is terrific, with a great cast of characters, very-good-occasionally-awesome dialog, and lots of clever ideas. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and it’s one of those books you power through, and then re-read sections, just to re-live the fun. I re-listened to the second half of the book (~5 hours) the day after finishing it, and found lots of neat, tight-fitting details that I had missed the first time.

Second, the narrator, Justine Eyre, is awesome. I pretty much never give a narrator the “golden voice” badge after just one book, but this performance was so strong, I was awarding it before the novel was half finished. Indeed, it was her voice on the 5 minute sample that convinced me I wanted to purchase and listen to the book sooner rather than later. She easily handles the two dozen or so distinct characters, with clear differences in tone and accent that make it easy to tell who’s speaking at any given time. And her performance really takes the humor to the next level, particularly with the dialog.

Who This Book is For

The book feels, in the best possible way, more like Firefly than anything I’ve come across. The characters, their relationships with each other, and a captain who never set out to be the good guy, but kind of ends up being one anyway. If you loved Firefly, as I did, you will love this novel.

My wife is a fan of Leverage, which I absorb by osmosis, and it has a bit of that feel, too. Action, capers, revenge, and humor. If you like Leverage, you’ll like this book.

Someone, maybe Greg Rucka, described the book as Ocean’s Eleven with a unicorn. That works, too, and if you like Ocean’s Eleven, or (forgive me) horny unicorns, you might like this book, too.

At any rate, the author is already working on a second book, in what I hope will be a long series. This first book stands alone, but I’m very excited to know there will be more.

Highly recommended.

Update: Here’s another review of The Palace Job, from Sigrid Ellis. He notes the same qualities I did, even down to the Leverage comparison. And writes “If you are the audience for this book, you will ab-so-freakin-lute-ly love it to pieces” — which I absolutely am, and did. :-)

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Recommended: AppleTV (3rd generation)

by Michael Alderete on 6/13/2013 · 0 comments

I currently own four AppleTVs. I bought a 1st generation AppleTV used, years ago. I hooked it up and played with it for an hour. Disconnected it, and put it in my pile of tech to get rid of. Not useful.

I bought a 2nd generation AppleTV shortly after they were released, and liked it well enough. It’s a great Netflix client, and we used it regularly. AppleTV is still the best way to watch Netflix that I’ve used.[^1] If you have a streaming Netflix subscription, that alone makes AppleTV worth getting.

When the 3rd generation AppleTV came out, I got one of those for full HD (1080p) on the large TV, and moved the older AppleTV to the small television we have above our treadmill. And there, it found its calling. Read the rest of this entry (396 words) »

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Recommended: Downpour.com

by Michael Alderete on 5/23/2013 · 0 comments

If you’re an audiobook fan, I recommend heading over to Downpour.com and signing up for their newsletter. The weekly deals have been terrific, with free or inexpensive unabridged audiobooks offered regularly. The current promotion is “Huck for a buck”.

Huck for a buck

The books are all “classics”, which is another way to say that the copyright is expired and the text is in the public domain. (I.e., no author royalties to pay.) That’s OK, these are still cool books. I’ve picked up Frankenstein, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the grand total of $1.1

Downpour.com also has a terrific library of best sellers and new releases, including a few series that are on my list of recommended audiobooks, like the Vorkosigan Saga, the Harry Bosch series, and the Sookie Stackhouse books that inspired the HBO series True Blood. Their prices are competitive with Audible.com, they have a subscription plan that’s even cheaper, and they have apps for both iPhone (iOS) and Android.

These guys are great, I recommend you check them out. The newsletter sign-up form is at the bottom of every page.


  1. Before you say “I can get all those same books at LibriVox, and more besides, for FREE”, no, you can’t. The Downpour.com versions have terrific production values, recorded by professional voice talent in a professional recording studio. LibraVox, while a neat service, is amateurs of varying levels of talent reading into microphones of varying levels of quality in environments with varying levels of extra noise. There’s no comparison. 

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Very Quick Hardware Reviews

by Michael Alderete on 2/22/2013 · 2 comments

Since the last time I updated my hardware recommendations I’ve purchased:

  • An iPhone 5
  • An iPod Touch, 5th generation (first with Lightening connector)
  • An iPod Nano, 7th generation (first with Lightening connector)
  • A Nexus 4 (yes, I’m giving Android a serious look)

I’m going to be updating my hardware recommendations soon, but in the meantime, here’s some quick thoughts.

  1. I don’t get the new Nano. It’s very nice, and it would have been a great way to go before the tiny square 5-6th generation Nano, but it’s…I dunno. I don’t get it. The tiny square Nano was perfect for clipping on for workouts, very capable. The new one is a little more functionality, but also bigger. If you’re going bigger, why not go all the way and get an iPhone or iPod Touch, and have a real touch device, that can run apps and everything that comes with that?

  2. In fact, I don’t get the entire iPod line. I would have dropped the Shuffle, made the square Nano (upgraded to Lightening) cheaper to fill that spot in the line, and upgraded the iPod Touch to the new version, but keeping the old screen size. Make the taller screen an iPhone 5 exclusive, while keeping the iPod line more affordable.

  3. I definitely would have discontinued the old iPod Touch product. Leaving that on the market is just confusing.

  4. All that said, the new Nano and Touch are really nice devices. And the old iPod Touch is now a bargain way to get onto iOS. Just because the product line is confusing doesn’t mean the hardware isn’t nice.

  5. Still, I recommend the iPhone 5, because it is freakin’ awesome. Truly the best piece of computing hardware I’ve ever owned.

  6. The Nexus 4 is very nice, seems to run the Audible app pretty well (if not quite as smoothly as on the iPhone), and has a pretty broad range of other spoken word apps available. My favorite podcast app, Pocket Casts, is available for Android, and is even “Android first” (h/t Daring Fireball). My survey is far from complete, but it’s clear that as far as spoken word entertainment goes, Android is at least very good, and has no gaps.

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Simple Bracket for March Madness 2013

by Michael Alderete on 2/5/2013 · 0 comments

The Simple Bracket Kickstarter project looks incredibly cool:

I’m a backer at the maximum level. If you’re a college basketball fan, it’s worth checking out. (And watch the video all the way to the end. ;-)

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Audie Audiobook Winners for 2012

by Michael Alderete on 6/8/2012 · 0 comments

Just a quick note to congratulate the winners for this year’s Audie awards, the Grammy Awards of the audiobook world. (Yes, I know there is an actual Grammy for audiobooks, but the Audie is the real award to win.)

The 2012 Audie Award Winners at Audible.com

The 2012 Audie winners are all available at Audible.com, for your immediate listening pleasure.

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Audible.com’s Memorial Day sale is celebrating the three day weekend (in the US) with three different series on sale. Every book in each series is available, and priced at $7.95, a serious savings. Get a book for the price of a decent six pack, or a Summer’s worth of listening for half what you spent on that new Weber grill.

The Three Series Sale at Audible.com

Two of the three series are terrific, with Elvis Cole being one of my favorites. Read the rest of this entry (493 words) »

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With the launch of the store at Pottermore.com, it’s now possible to get digital versions of all seven Harry Potter novels.

Pottermore Shop

I own all of the audiobooks twice over, and several of the printed books, but the eBooks represent something new: the chance to read the British version of the novels. Alas, due to insanely complicated—and stupid—international publication rights and restrictions, and my credit card’s USA billing address, the Pottermore.com store did not want to allow me to buy the UK version of the books.

Here’s how I bought them anyway. (You can do the same for the audiobooks, too.) Read the rest of this entry (383 words) »

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iPads 1, 2, 3

April 13, 2012

So I bought a first-generation iPad, Rochelle got an iPad 2 as a “spousal patience” present, and we both got “the new iPad (3rd generation)” when it came out in March. Obviously if we’re still buying them, we must like them. But, how about some details? What do we use them for? Why is the […]

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On Sale at Audible: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy

June 12, 2011

Only for the next two days, and only for Audible.com members, but the deal is so good, I feel compelled to share this collection of three hard-edged science fiction novels, Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies. I really enjoyed all three novels, and hope the author will return to the Envoy universe and write […]

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Audiobook Builder 1.5

May 30, 2011

My recommended solution for creating digital audiobooks from CDs, Audiobook Builder, has recently been updated, and comes with a new feature for renaming the chapters in an audiobook: I don’t know that I’d want to use this on every book, but for those without interesting or meaningful chapter names (or if you’re just not as […]

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Sublime Sherlock

November 10, 2010

The BBC’s sublime Sherlock brings an exciting, fully modern Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to 21st Century London, all the while retaining the essence of Holmes.

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